Cafe du Cycliste's Cycling Cap Sardine is a hybrid of classic style and modern practicality. I found ours absolutely perfect for my head shape and generous shock of hair, which is pretty good going for a single one-size-fits-all.
Made in Italy, the Sardine is part of CduC's animal range, influenced, we're told, by local nature and landscape. When it comes to caps, I'm generally a merino man, with a leaning towards bold but simple retro styling. With that in mind, I really liked the bold navy blue backdrop and to my surprise, the quirky graphics were also a hit.
It's a four-panel design made from a blend of polyester and cotton. This promises to keep the wearer temperate, whether its 37 degrees or slipping into single figures.
Standards of construction are high, although no less than I'd expect from this end of the market. Stitching is neat and uniform throughout, seams flat and the elasticated back snug, without becoming intrusive or branding your head after a few hours riding.
Inside the rim sits an anti-bacterial strip to prevent, or at least discourage, nasty niffs, and up front the porch-like peak is designed to defend against torrential rain and brutal sun. I'm pleased to report this is easily flipped up and doesn't hinder folding, should you want to whip it off and stuff it in a jersey pocket.
Staying with the peak a moment, it's aggressive, almost beak-like, and I'm used to shallower, rounded profiles. Worn beneath several road helmets, I found it restricted my field of vision, though some gentle manipulation corrected this without impairing protection. That done, it's offered decent defence against dust, sun and short but very intense downpours.
The poly/cotton blend is a world away from the cotton trade caps I remember from my late teens and early twenties. Cruising along at 20-23mph in glorious sunshine and temperatures hitting the mid 20s, that familiar glow creeps in after 30 minutes or so. From then on, fibres awaken and temperature regulation is pretty consistent. Blessed with a thick shock of hair (it's not me in the photos), I wasn't surprised to find it matted and sweaty after several hours, though it didn't reach the stage where I was worrying about catching a chill on late evening meanders.
Persistent, showery rain needed 30 minutes or so before making its presence known, but given 20 minutes with a stiff breeze and decent pace, materials are 70% dry – faster without a lid on top.
Sans helmet and in blustery conditions, the elastic keeps everything in place – no sensation of lift or incremental creep, even when haring along 1-in-4s at 30-odd.
Remembering those trade caps of my 20s and their funkiness given a few hot-day rides, I resisted any urge to wash it, just to see how effective the anti-bacterial strip was. Credit where it's due, three weeks later things were still socially acceptable. Thirty-degree machine washes with minimal detergent is the cure, when it does. As with merino, avoid the tumble drier and bargain on 35 minutes line-drying time.
Overall, I've been impressed by the balance of comfort, style and performance. Admittedly, the peak wasn't my ideal shape, though it did everything I'd need it to – brilliant on those occasions when I'd left my shades at home.
The £25 price tag is pretty much my upper limit for a cap of this sort, and there are waterproof designs around for less. That said, I would much sooner a shower resistant design that dries quickly over something impervious, especially during the warmer months.
Rugged, comfortable and generally practical cap, but the peak shape might not suit everyone
road.cc test report
Make and model: Cafe du Cycliste Cycling Cap Sardine
Size tested: One size
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Cafe Du Cycliste says: "Taking inspiration from landscapes that surround our home, our new series of casquettes celebrate nature both in the sea and on the land. The Sardine comes in navy blue and is made from a lightweight technical cotton blend to absorb sweat on hot summer days and keep you warm when the temperature drops."
My feelings are: not cheap but well-executed cap made from a very practical blend of materials.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
CduC lists these features:
* Four Panel Construction
* Anti-Bacterial Interior Tape
* Elasticated Back
* One Size Fits All
* Fast Drying
* Made in Italy
So far it has responded well to a regime of daily use and periodic washing.
Good fit, especially by one-size standards.
Peak was good but not great for me.
Generally very comfortable, more so than I was expecting from a cotton hybrid blend.
Not cheap but generally well designed and made to last.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to live with. Machine washes nicely at 30 degrees.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Cafe Du Cycliste cap is a nice go-to for less extreme conditions (where I might err toward a waterproof model). The poly/cotton fibres are tactile and surprisingly effective. Wicking prowess and temperature regulation is similarly good. Not on par with merino but the antibacterial works and it's easy to wash when things turn a bit funky. I would've preferred a shallower peak but that's a personal thing.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Rugged, practical design, easy to live with. Timeless colour.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Peak wasn't ideal for me and I'm not completely sold on the massive sardine either, but these are minor matters of taste.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if the peak shape suits them.
Use this box to explain your score
A good cap that performs well in most contexts, but the peak shape might not be a winner with everyone.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)